Hans Theys is a twentieth-century philosopher and art historian. He has written and designed dozens of books on the works of contemporary artists and published hundreds of essays, interviews and reviews in books, catalogues and magazines. All his publications are based on actual collaborations and conversations with artists.

This platform was developed by Evi Bert (M HKA / Centrum Kunstarchieven Vlaanderen) in collaboration with the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp (Research group Archivolt), M HKA, Antwerp and Koen Van der Auwera. We also thank Idris Sevenans (HOR) and Marc Ruyters (Hart Magazine).


Viviane Klagsbrun - 2018 - Selfies [EN, essay]
Text , 1 p.


Hans Theys

About paintings by Viviane Klagsbrun

If we accept that the emergence of the painted portrait in the fifteenth century led to the emergence of autonomous, no longer subjugated painting, as art historian Dirk De Vos writes, then we should certainly regard the self-portrait as the staunchest ally of the destitute or solitary painter whose only recourse in the absence of models is to make his own head the subject of his painting. If we think of the expressive self-portraits of Ensor or of the self-portraits of Rembrandt, which according to Jean Genet tell us how Rembrandt turned the loss of his son Titus into a pantheistic love of colour and matter, then we regret that Vermeer appears to have had no shortage of models at his disposal and we are happy that today we can take pleasure in the tender, open-hearted, sometimes funny, sometimes tragicomic, but always memorable self-portraits of Viviane Klagsbrun (°1956). It is a joy to see how these self-portraits have become autonomous paintings which combine all Klagsbrun’s qualities: her simultaneous humour and seriousness, her flair for dividing the picture plane, her feel for colour and texture, and her ability to make paintings which look as if they might fall apart at any moment, but which hang together in a secret way, as if held in place with invisible thread.

Nobody knows what a ‘self’ is. In the absence of a holdfast, people give themselves shape and substance by putting the emphasis on the ways they differ from foreigners or those who don’t share their views. However, artists know that everybody sings itself a ‘self’, day and night, as a recognizable melody of rhythms and patterns, contrasts and harmonies, captured in electric fluctuations reformulated every day and fed by our earliest and latest experiences. I see these paintings as a song, a song of the self, which would not otherwise be.

Montagne de Miel, January 17th 2018

Translated by Alison Mouthaan